reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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an octopus and a hissy fit. [d.r. thursday]

in the outstanding documentary “my octopus teacher” craig foster forges a relationship with an octopus in the south african kelp forest. every day he enters the cold water to search for her and over the period of about a year he bonded an intimate friendship with this amazing creature. when she disappears after a scare, he spends days seeking her, commenting, “i try to think like an octopus.” his success reuniting with her shows he is at least somewhat capable of thinking how she thinks, of seeing how she sees. your heart is filled watching the mutuality of their connection and you wonder why this level of reciprocal respect cannot exist more easily between human beings.

tuesday i had a hissy fit. i have mostly recuperated. i’m not sure where it started but it definitely was a meltdown. anxiety coupled with grief coupled with worry and angst with a pinch of frustration – the ingredients du jour for many of us on a given day in these difficult times. i went on about a propensity for letting things just roll off my back, making things ok, not speaking up – for myself – as often as i would wish or as often would seem apt. in my wild and wooly meltdown, i complained that others can do this and often do this – speak up, push back, say things are not ok – without incident, without remorse, without punitive measures, without concern. i stated examples in that way you do when you are ranting; there are many words you speak asfastasyoucan to make sure the other person keeps listening and there are also many punctuation words you linger on, stretching out the sound of them on your lips, exquisite cuss words that seem fitting at the time. these are not necessarily pretty, but they are definitely handy at providing emphasis. i ranted about neighbors playing music at absurd decibels in a house-dense community. i ranted about the internet and streaming and ridiculously small music royalties, an industry for independents, flailing. i ranted about my right hand’s range of motion plateau. i ranted about speaking up for myself and my rights as a woman, my rights as a professional, my rights as an employee. i ranted about not saying “no”. i ranted about losing my job. i ranted about those who claim to be caring and compassionate not even entertaining having any kind of discussion or dialogue. i ranted about ill-suited leaders in leadership positions, seemingly not being held answerable. i ranted about hypocrisy. i ranted about people’s silent complicity. i ranted about wanting to retort to others about their stance on politics, on gender and racial equality, on the pandemic, on climate change, on gun violence and gun control. i ranted that, even sans retort, even in even-keeled, calm, cool, collected and researched manner, it would be next to impossible to navigate debate. i ranted about the abyss in our nation that makes it impossible to have an intelligent, thoughtful and respectful conversation without vile getting in the way. i ranted about the inability for people to see things together. i ranted about missing my sweet babycat. i returned to the top, taking a breath and again ranted that others seem to do and say whatever they please, despite fallout or impact on others, despite truth or consequences, without care and with agenda, without benevolence and with mean-spiritedness, without kindness and with a lack of sensitivity. i ranted that i could not continue this way. i ranted, “if i can’t at 62, when is it that i can???” can’t what? can what? i’m not even sure i know. ranting is like that.

it would seem that possibly a kelp forest off the coast, deep dives with a weight belt, times of holding one’s breath minutes at a time might aid in establishing some sort of common ground. it worked for craig foster and his fantastic octopus. he carefully, and without antagonizing her or scaring her or moving too quickly, watched her in her short life. he passively, without interfering or having self-serving agenda, watched her deal with day-to-day life, with adversity, with terror, with the pecking order that comes in the ocean. he watched her gracefully and intelligently co-exist with stunning creatures of the sea. he was saddened when she was hurt; he mourned her when she died. relationship. a kinship crossing natural boundaries.

we humans…we have much to learn. we have brains that refuse to look for new factual knowledge, hearts that refuse to respect all love as love, eyes that refuse to attempt empathy or fairness and see what others see. maybe we should spend some time immersed in the vast ocean, in a kelp forest. or maybe we should try harder. or maybe we should spend some time answering the important questions of our hissy fits.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

CHICKEN MARSALA ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood


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a clinker. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

i am a clinker. i simply cannot take a sip of wine without clinking.

last week we rediscovered that three wine glasses clinking sound infinitely different than two. for the better part of a year we have only clinked two, never a third, never a fourth. like many of you, the pandemic has prevented us from sharing a few moments with others, having a toast, sipping and talking together in the same space.

last spring, summer and fall, out in their backyard distanced by about ten feet, we had happy hour with our best friends. we sat in adirondack chairs on the patio or in the grass, under the setting sun or the giant-sized umbrella, hoping for a cool breeze or warming by the bonfire. we talked, we laughed, we visited in our little pod from far away. but we never clinked.

i clinked in october. we were in the high mountains at long last and my girl was holding a wine glass in the same space and we clinked. tiny cherished moments and glittering in their rarity. and then, just as there were months before, there were months after. the clinks-of-aspen have been ringing in my heart since those crisp fall days.

so the fact that this past week we clinked is a big deal. we have had both our vaccines and so has 20. we are all meticulously careful. and so, after much research, for the first time, he came over for dinner. inside. in our kitchen. it felt surreal and took a little getting used to. oddly for us, it’s been a long time since anyone was in our house besides us. it was a special clink and we laughed at how normal and abnormal it was. and then, the same story only different, after way too much time, we clinked with my boy. at his spectator counter in their beautiful kitchen, steps away from a table set for a dinner we would share. clink.

three more-than-two-glasses-clinks in about a year.

although there are several outdated and somewhat dark ancient and medieval reasons for clinking, the farmers’ almanac states that, “it is believed that clinking glasses was done during toasts, because sound helped to please all five senses, completing the drinking experience. drinking is also a coming together of friends, so by physically touching glasses, drinkers become part of a communal celebration.”

a communal celebration. the sound of community. things that have been missing this last year. it is clear we are all starved for time together. it is also clear that some people are just throwing in the towel. fatigued with isolation, tuckered out by a piece of cloth across their faces, they go and do whatever they please, scorning the wise advice of medical experts who warn of the possibility of “impending doom” and beg this country to abide by covid-19 safety parameters just a little longer. it’s hard to understand – the lack of concern for the collective. we do not exist in a vacuum, though it would seem that there are those out there who believe we do.

as we – d and i – gently and very slowly add to our experiences with others, i want to celebrate each and every one, never taking for granted being seated around a counter, never taking for granted what it feels like dining around our tiny kitchen table or with a fancy setting in the dining room, never taking for granted a houseful of people milling around eating and drinking, never taking for granted what it feels like for those dear to you to walk into your house and enjoy the presence of others, never taking for granted basking in community.

“i have big ears,” one of my long-lost-but-now-found-cousins said on the phone when we were talking, trying to catch up on everything since around 1970. i tried to reassure him i would not talk his ear off each time we spoke; it takes so many words to try and catch up, to reconnect, as i am discovering in conversation with him, another of my cousins – his sister – and my almost-99-year-old aunt. he laughed and reassured me, “no, no. it’s all good. i have big ears.”

were he here, my cousin tony standing in the kitchen with a glass of wine, i would clink with him and celebrate mightily that my community is growing in ways i would not have expected.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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dog and cat. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

his best friend. he waits at the door for his best friend to return. his sorrow is quiet, subdued. his grief is confusion, dedication to a belief that babycat will come home. he has never been in this house without him – not even a day – and this last week has been heartwrenching to watch his reaction. his sadness is palpable, his loss profound.

the first few days after his babycat disappeared he was almost silent. dogdog is never a silent dog, so this was noticeable. without a sound, he looked everywhere for his cat. with lydia’s wise recommendation i tried to visualize for him all that had happened once his babycat had left the house, to give him some context, to let him know he did not have to wait, to tell him that his babycat was now in our hearts. he looked deeply into my eyes and then looked away, as if to dismiss my explanation, to hold close his own perspective, his own interpretation.

‘the boys’ spent the days together – every day since we brought dogdog home as a puppy. they’ve navigated through changes and ups and downs with us. they’ve kept us amused and entertained. they’ve nuzzled us in our times of angst. the rare times they were apart were very few times that we were on a trip. they moved to the littlehouse on island with us and adapted, finding mutual spots at the place where the kitchen met the living room and the sun streamed in. the noise of the ferry on the crossing scaring babycat, dogdog stayed close to him, signaling all was well. they channeled reassurance to each other, touchstones of steady, ever-present. they shared their water bowl and cheered each other on when it was time for treats. where one would go, ultimately the other would follow. and at the end of the day, butt-to-butt, they lay on the raft, waiting for us to sleep. babycat ruled. they were best friends.

last tuesday morning as i sipped coffee on the bed and babycat lay curled up down by my feet, dogga jumped up and laid down. gently, with all absence of play and what seemed in all seriousness, he moved his face over to babycat’s face. they laid nose to nose, heads on the soft old quilt, their hushed stillness, in retrospect, a clear display of their great love for each other. after a bit of time, babycat’s symptoms surfaced suddenly. and everything in the world changed for our sweet dedicated-to-his-cat aussie.

i understand dogdog’s quiet. though our presence and snugs and words to him might help, solace will only come in time. “woundedness is one of the places where normal words and descriptions break down.” grief is not limited to human hearts.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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babycat. [two artists tuesday]

his long white whisker was on the black rug in the sunroom. i bent down and picked it up, my heart aching for this sweet adored cat no longer here. i taped it to a piece of colored paper, trying to hold on to babycat physically just a little longer.

b-cat was twelve. according to the almanac that’s about 64. it hadn’t occurred to me or us that he was a senior cat; he was simply our babycat and his presence was more than one-fourth of our home. his absence has made a profound impact; it is very very quiet. it’s not that he was that noisy, although he was a vocal cat. it’s just that he was that present. for each of us.

i was alone last week when it happened. in an unusual turn d was away and i was home. monday was a day of sorting and cleaning and rearranging. babycat spent the day in the same room as me and split his time between snoozing and pets. nothing out of the ordinary, just extraordinarily normal. tuesday morning was unexpected and will break my heart for some time to come. suddenly symptomatic and ultimately laying down behind a chair i never remember him exploring, i knew things were dreadfully wrong. racing babycat in his blanketed dog-crate (since he was too big for cat carriers) to an urgent veterinarian appointment, i spoke to him the entire way while he loudly meowed and i could feel hope leaving my body. there are moments that feel surreal and, like other losses in my life, this was one. over a covid-enforced veterinary facetime app, a very kind and compassionate doctor explained the xray she had immediately taken and the dire implications of all that she could see suddenly impacting our beloved cat. babycat gave us no time to make longer term treatment decisions. he died on that tuesday morning in march, almost twelve years since my life had been graced by him as a kitten. and, in the way that death changes everything, i won’t be the same without him.

i’ve seen bumper stickers with pawprints that read “who rescued who?” each time i nod my head, understanding. babycat came to me at a time of great need. my girl and my boy and i drove to florida to pick up this kitten who had come to stay at my niece’s doorstep, with no evidence of a missing owner. a first-time-cat-family, we drove “cat”, who we were having trouble naming, all the way home, trying to figure out how to feed and water and potty-break a cat on the way, when all our experience was dog-based. somewhere along the way babycat was named “wilson” but he chose to never answer to that and picked “babycat” as his given name. we taught him to sit, to beg, to come when called. he meowed when we said “speak” and was a lot more dog than cat in many ways.

babycat – in the wisdom of the animal kingdom – followed me around in moments of loneliness, insisted on regimented times for meals, showed me that the sun on the rug in the living room was something to soak up, sat with me on the floor. baby-the-c’s constant companionship was my solace in empty-nest-initiation and his lack of stealth was a bit of noise i desperately needed around me. so much to say about that little creature. yes, who rescued who?

his absence now is, if possible, even bigger than his presence. babycat love – ours and his – surrounds me.

*****

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our H. [merely-a-thought monday]

the last time i had an in-depth conversation with him, H said, “i have my hope on the generation coming up…that they will be a force for the good.” i cannot imagine a bigger force for good than sweet H.

the candle is burning now. we have had it lit many times in recent days as H has struggled with the fine line between living and dying. the image of his dear face in our mind’s eye reminds us of how to grow old gracefully, how to live into aging, how to participate, how to be in the river not on the river’s edge.

we just heard that H died last night and, as i write this on saturday morning, the sun bursting outside and the birds in full song, my heart is breaking. i have adored H – now ninety-something-something – since the first day he walked into the choir room in which i used to direct choirs, ukulele bands, handbells and be a part of all the joy and community mutually created in that room. his spirit entered before he did, flowing positive energy and a will to try anything, laughter his guide. his bass voice in our choir, in our ukulele band, in our lives was grounding and the gift of angels who had gone before him. H was intrepid. rain, sleet, snow or ice did not deter him or any adventure he took on. he worked harder than most in his earlier years and he played with childlike glee in his later years. mostly, he was not afraid. he wasn’t afraid to learn new things or take on technology. he wasn’t afraid to sing solo or rap in front of others. he wasn’t afraid to travel or to just simply be who he was. he was fiercely devoted to his family, each of them. he wasn’t afraid to love or to state how he felt or what he thought. he was more genuine than many who claim authenticity as their core. a faithful human being, he was.

the refrigerator magnets cluster together from places he went; he always proudly brought me back a magnet from his travels. at the end of the year he’d give me a multitude of those calendars you get in the mail – from all different organizations he had contributed to or of which he was a part – and i’d pick one to hang in the choir room, one to hang at home and one to use for notes. the charlie brown coffee mug in our mug cabinet, that he had carefully wrapped in its suitcase-journey from the peanuts museum in california, is a favorite treasure. he loved butterfingers. he was H.

our last conversation, just a few days ago, was a little disjointed. H couldn’t hear what i was saying on the phone but was trying hard to speak. unlike all our other calls, we didn’t really talk about anything that time. but one thing was clear – shared love and respect for each other and the absolute happiness we each felt having this special friendship. he was H and, oh, his heart.

in an earlier longer call he had talked about the dynamics of our country. he was worried and said that his concern was that current circumstances were like a snowball going downhill…getting bigger and bigger, worse and worse. while i would agree that our country, in big places and small, is in desperate need of a thawing-out of mean-spirited snowballs going rapidly downhill, i would offer that there are other domino effects as well, the kind that take frosty snowflakes and build magical snowmen and the snowforts of children’s imaginings. H is such snow magic, if you will – a trillion unique flakes joined together by infinite molecules of kindness. a snowball that gains in momentum and size – in every good way – each time he was around people. brilliant snowflakes attracted to a genuine and gentle man who would dedicatedly stick with you through thick and thin, persons drawn to each other like perfect individual crystals, stars together.

H lived his hope for the future – he was a force for good. there is no reckoning about this. he will shine in the stars and in all the bass solos. he will gather angels around him, singing, and create fairy-dust-snowflakes. he will be missed and he will be remembered. he was H and his heart was gigantic.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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bareback and honest. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

calm.

the mug calls for calm.

yet, in these times, calm is elusive. it is the floating dust glistening in sunlight. it is the golden ray through the cloud. it is the snowflakes silently falling in the woods. it is the sound of soft laughter, the sound of the dog’s feet running in dreams and the cat snoring in slumber. it is hard to hold onto, hard to touch; it is hard to find.

in these times, with coffee in our hands, we start the new day. we wake, wishes and burdens on our minds, both. the things that kept us awake in the middle of the night, the things that pushed us into sleep: exhausting, worrisome, celebratory, quietly reassuring, sleep-depriving, sleep-inducing. we start the morning, on the roller coaster, one of us holding the “calm” mug.

we have found that – the conversations over-morning-coffee, the conversations over evening-wine, the conversations on the trail, in the sunroom, at the kitchen counter – these conversations need a little help, a little preface, a tiny guideline. for him, a guy, though not a-macho-guy-type-still-a-guy-nonetheless, he is looking to solve. for me, a girl, well, i am looking to just talk, to just go on, to be redundant, to vent. we discovered early on that any talk-talk could easily dissolve into ugly if we didn’t clarify a few things, well, really one thing, first. was this a conversation where i wanted comfort or solutions? was this a conversation where i wanted him to listen or problem-solve?

i honestly can say these two questions – just this simple strategy – could have saved many a relationship moment dating back decades and decades. it took me way too long to realize this glaringly obvious simplicity – that men and women, women and women, men and men – any two people in relationship – approach from vastly disparate directions. i am riding my feisty mare in from the rising sun in the east and he is galloping on a sassy stallion from the setting sun in the west. meeting in the middle ground requires a little gps-ing, dispensing of the drawn word-swords and negotiating some clarity shortcuts. that simple. that makes all the difference.

in these times, though calm is illusory, we find that we can be in this world of unknowns mostly by just being. solutions are hiding with the calm, behind puzzling shadows.

but comfort, listening, empathy are right out in the open, in that field of possibility between the rising sun and the setting sun, riding a steady quarter horse, bareback and honest.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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wheeeee! [d.r. thursday]

some things are just obvious. that babycat is jaded and a tad sarcastic is obvious. he lives with dogdog who is profoundly gleeful, well, except for the times that he’s morose. he is a full-spectrum dog and rides the roller coaster of what is going on around him, empathic to the nth degree. babycat, on the other hand, would be merely mildly concerned despite all hell raining down on him, except when he is downright naggingly ankle-biting angsting at mealtime. they are different-different-different and they adore each other. it does not, however, stop them from barbs or from being snippy.

some things are just obvious. that i am more jaded and a tad bit more sarcastic is obvious. i live with d who is artsy and in his head, pondering, well, except for the times he’s ranting. he is a full-spectrum chap and rides the roller coaster of what is going on around him, empathic to the nth degree. i, on the other hand, well, actually, i ride along on that damn empathic roller-coaster-that-seats-two. but my attention to details and building from the ground up sometimes butts up with force against his thirty-thousand-foot view, his top-down construct. i’m the one to write-a-lettuh, to return the boneless-nuggets-with-the-bone-in-them. he’s more likely to shrug it off, let it go. i’m the one on hold with the insurance company, researching every last piece of minutiae. he’s more likely to scan through and jump. i’m the one with analysis-paralysis, reading the fine print. he’s more likely to snap-decide and move on. we are different and we adore each other. it does not, however, stop us from barbs or from being snippy.

the combo platter of dogdog and babycat is perfect for us. they each have their own uniqueness, their own personalities, their own quirks. we can’t imagine life without them. they know us and anticipate our every move. dogdog watches for the moment it looks like we are heading to the living room to satisfy our cnn-junky-addiction so he can relax on the rug and chew on his bone, surrounded by dismembered dog toys. babycat watches for the moment it looks like we are heading to the bedroom so that he might be carried up a few steps to the nightcap of schnibbles waiting in his bowl, a preface to a sound sleep, an evening of unmatched cat-snores. so much anticipation of the known.

i wonder about the combo platter of us for dogdog and babycat. are we perfect for them? are our uniquenesses, our personalities, our quirks appreciated by them? can they imagine life without us? have they trained us to know and anticipate their every move? do they listen to our sweet whisperings and watch our gentle hugs and cheer? do they listen to our snips and barbs; do they take sides? do they lay on the bed together when we are out and about in the world and bemoan their placement in life? or do they jump on the roller-coaster-that-seats-two’s sidecars and ride along, bouncing and jostled, paws in the air yelling, “wheeeeeee!”?

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY


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the chair. [two artists tuesday]

the snow around it was untouched, pure, driven by wind. the grey of the day was serene, quiet. the chair waited.

we had passed by the chair a few times before. it sat, unsat-in, looking lonely and wistful, as only empty chairs can look. the chair waited.

after the fresh snow had fallen, we pulled on snowpants and magical down mittens. with roads barely plowed, we trekked around the neighborhood, coming upon the chair, waiting.

it was as if i could hear its sorrow as we approached, this chair left outside with no takers. without hesitancy i walked to it, to sit in its snow-filled seat, to ponder life for just a bit of time. i could feel the chair smile.

we giggled at the absurdity of the easy chair in the snow, but the chair just sat, gleeful with the company and the sound of laughter.

the technicolor snowglobe moment looked black and white, stark contrasts against powder. the chair felt hopeful, color returning to its chair-life.

as i stood to go, i silently thanked the chair and wished for its adoption by someone who needed an easy sit, a place to wonder.

we walked away and i turned back just once. the chair was sitting up straight and tall, stalwart, steadfast, heartened.

a day or two later we went by the place where the chair had sat. recent snow had filled in where it had been, filled in my bootprints around it.

and we were happy for the chair.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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comfort you. [two artists tuesday]

van morrison said it: “i want to comfort you. i want to comfort you. i want to comfort you. just let your tears run wild like when you were a child. i’ll do what i can do. i want to comfort you. you put the weight on me…i want to comfort you.”

how is it that, in the middle of feeling low-low-low, these sweet animals know exactly what to do? tucked under an old quilt, dogdog and babycat jumped up on the bed, searched my face and snugged up tightly right next to me, bookends on either side.

there are days – in these times – we must all feel the anguish of mental health exhaustion, of wide-awake anxiety, of worries too steep to climb, struggles, fears to which we close our eyes, wincing in pain.

there are days we reach out to others, extending words of reassurance, tiny tidbits of humor, virtual hugs, care packages, texts of love.

there are days we can only lay under a quilt. we sort and sort through the stuff-in-our-brains, listing the realities of our angst, wondering, reeling, succumbing to lonely early winter darkness.

if only it were so easy as to be dogdog and babycat. with no hesitation, they simply comfort. their response is pure. their compassion is the stuff of unconditional love. they don’t make assumptions or have judgement. they don’t assail with questions or platitudes. they don’t slough it off or explain it away. they don’t ignore it.

instead, they show up. and it is absolutely clear to me that they are saying, “i want to comfort you.”

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY






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“transparent.” [merely-a-thought monday]

the headline from business insider magazine reads, “chris krebs firing from CISA (cybersecurity and infrastructure security agency) was evidence of his success.” the united states top department of homeland security cybersecurity official was fired this week after spearheading efforts to protect the democratic process of the election. he spoke to the truth; he exposed the falsehoods, the mismanagement of factual information, the peril to free and fair elections, his ignored answers to questions about an election that was “the most secure in american history.” he was removed. democracy is at stake.

defense secretary mark esper, apparently not loyal enough to a president who seeks not truth, but rather, compliance, was fired early in november, injecting uncertainty into an already perilous global climate. he was replaced. our country is destabilized, put at greater risk.

 lt. col. alexander vindman, a national security council staff member, raised his hand and swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  after speaking to the truth in impeachment hearings for the current president, he was fired by the president, the same man who was impeached. his error? speaking the truth, citing facts, about a man who demands only absolute alliance, disregarding truth. that man, along with those complicit to him, exacted revenge.

 dr. anthony fauci, the director of the national institute of allergy and infectious diseases since 1984, speaking to the truth, the inconceivable and unconscionable peril that this country is facing in the middle of this raging global pandemic, has been minimized and tossed off, threatened with being fired by a president intent on absolute control, absolute obedience. factual information needed to protect a vulnerable populace has been withheld, experts with words of wisdom have been held at bay. more people will contract this disease. more people will die.

 “transparency, in a business or governance context, is honesty and openness.”
“transparency is the open sharing of information from a business to its consumers. it creates brand trust, good communication and perceived good citizenship.”

transparency is not the utterance of pretty words. it is not relationship participating in hiding the truth, sweeping it under the rug. it is not silent. it is not intentionally deceptive. it is having hard and healthy conversations,
respectfully taking responsibility, navigating difficulty, meeting and addressing problems head-on, collaborating with maturity, eyes toward progress and shared authenticity.

our election process. our national security. the integrity of our leadership. our collective health.

lack of transparency. peril. potential collapse.

there is too much of that going around.

what a sad commentary on our times.

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY